Sally Mann was born in Lexington, Virginia in 1951. She has always remained close to her roots. She has photographed in the American South since the 1970s, producing series on portraiture, architecture, landscape and still life.
She is perhaps best known for her intimate portraits of her family, her young children and her husband, and for her evocative and resonant landscape work in the American South. Her work has attracted controversy at times, but it has always been influential, and since her the time of her first solo exhibition, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., in 1977, she has attracted a wide audience.
Sally Mann explored various genres as she was maturing in the 1970s: she produced landscapes and architectural photography, and she blended still life with elements of portraiture. But she truly found her metier with her second publication, a study of girlhood entitled At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women (1988).
Between 1984 and 1994, she worked on the series, Immediate Family
(1992), which focuses on her three children, who were then all aged under ten. While the series touches on ordinary moments in their daily lives—playing, sleeping, eating—it also speaks to larger themes such as death and cultural perceptions of sexuality.
In her most recent series, Proud Flesh
, taken over a six year interval, Mann turns the camera onto her husband, Larry. The resultant photographs are candid and frank portraits of a man at his most vulnerable moments. Mann has produced two major series of landscapes: Deep South
(Bullfinch Press, 2005) and Mother Land
In What Remains
(Bullfinch Press, 2003), she assembled a five-part study of mortality, one which ranges from pictures of the decomposing body of her beloved greyhound, to the site where an armed fugitive committed suicide on her property in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. She has often experimented with color photography, but she has remained most interested in black and white, especially photography's antique technology. She has long used an 8x10 bellows camera, and has explored platinum and bromoil printing processes. In the mid 1990s she began using the wet plate collodion process to produce pictures which almost seem like hybrids of photography, painting, and sculpture.
Sally Mann lives and works in Lexington, Virginia. A Guggenheim
fellow, and a three-times recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Mann was named "America's Best Photographer" by TIME Magazine
She has been the subject of two documentaries: Blood Ties
(1994), which was nominated for an Academy Award, and What Remains
(2007) which premiered at Sundance and was nominated for an Emmy for Best Documentary in 2008. She has been the subject of major exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art
, Philadelphia, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art
, Washington, D.C.
Her photographs can be found in many public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art
; the Museum of Modern Art
; and the Whitney Museum of American Art
Source: Gagosian Gallery
Mann, born and raised in Virginia, is the daughter of Robert Munger and Elizabeth Munger. In Mann's introduction for her book Immediate Family, she "expresses stronger memories for the black woman, Virginia Carter, who oversaw her upbringing than for her own mother"
. Elizabeth Munger was not a big part of Mann's life, and Elizabeth said "Sally may look like me, but inside she's her father's child."
Virginia (Gee-Gee) Carter, born in 1894, raised Mann and her two brothers and was an admirable woman." Left with six children and a public education system for which she paid taxes but which forbade classes for black children beyond the seventh grade, Gee-Gee managed somehow to send each of them to out-of-state boarding schools and, ultimately, to college."
Virginia Carter died in 1994.
In 1969 Sally met Larry Mann, and in 1970 they married. Larry Mann is an attorney and, before practicing law, he was a blacksmith. Larry was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy around 1996. They live together in their home which they built on Sally's family's farm in Lexington, Virginia.
They have three children together: Emmett (born 1979), who took his own life in 2016, after a life-threatening car collision and a subsequent battle with schizophrenia, and who for a time served in the Peace Corps; Jessie (born 1981), who herself is an artist; and Virginia (born 1985), a lawyer.
She is passionate about endurance horse racing. In 2006, her Arabian horse ruptured an aneurysm while she was riding him. In the horse's death throes, Mann was thrown to the ground, the horse rolled over her, and the impact broke her back. It took her two years to recover from the accident and during this time, she made a series of ambrotype self-portraits. These self-portraits were on view for the first time in November 2010 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
as a part of Sally Mann: the Flesh and the Spirit